Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pavs sorry, Jets aren't thrilled either

No. 1 netminder apologizes for drunk-driving smash-up

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Ondrej Pavelec made countless highlight-of-the-night saves while tending goal for the Winnipeg Jets last winter.

But his next few, which might save his reputation with his employer, teammates, agent, fans, and ultimately help himself, could arguably be the biggest and most important of his career.

The 24-year-old goaltender has come clean on his drunk-driving conviction in the Czech Republic, issuing an apology through the Jets on Tuesday in a statement in which the organization made clear its disappointment in their star.

First, Pavelec confirmed he was involved in a traffic accident in the Czech Republic May 26 and took a breathalyzer test when police arrived. Czech media outlet Nova Sport reported his blood-alcohol level was .20.

Pavelec appeared in court June 12 with his attorney and was given a six-month suspended sentence and had his driver's licence suspended for 20 months. The court ruled the case will be dismissed in 12 months if Pavelec has no alcohol-related violations in that period.

In his statement, Pavelec said:

"I'm disappointed in myself for this error in judgment. I'm thankful no one was injured as a result of my actions. I want to sincerely apologize to our fans, the Winnipeg Jets organization and to my teammates for any embarrassment this has caused. I'm truly sorry for letting you all down."

But it's here where Pavelec will have to answer some tough questions that will be fired at him by Jets brass and ownership, especially after the organization was dealt a similar public-relations blow last summer when Dustin Byfuglien was arrested in Minneapolis on a boating-under-the-influence charge, which will be heard next week in Minnesota.

The Jets' portion of the statement released Tuesday indicates they were completely in the dark about Pavelec's arrest, even as they were negotiating and ultimately signing him to a new five-year, $19.5 million contract. That deal became official June 25, almost a month after an arrest Pavelec apparently kept from both the team and possibly his agent, Allan Walsh.

In their statement, the Jets said:

"The Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club would like to state we have now confirmed the details surrounding Ondrej Pavelec while driving under the influence in Kladno, Czech Republic, on May 26, 2012. The organization was deeply disappointed to learn of this information yesterday and is fully aware of the seriousness of this matter. We will determine our course of action once we have the chance to meet and discuss with Ondrej in person, which we expect to do at the earliest possible opportunity."

A club official said Tuesday Pavelec was eager to release his statement ASAP and will fly to Winnipeg for the meeting, although no timetable had been set yet.

He is coming off a season in which he played a career-high 68 games, posting a 29-28-9 record with a .906 save percentage, 2.91 goals-against average and registered four shutouts.

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2012 D2

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